Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Dreams in the Fire, A Review

Dreams in the Fire (2011)
Edited by Mark Finn and Chris Gruber, Cover by Jim and Ruth Keegan.

Dreams in the Fire contains stories and poems inspired by Robert E. Howard. Proceeds go to Project Pride, the community organization from Cross Plains, Texas, that takes care of the Robert E. Howard House and museum in Cross Plains. All the authors in this collection are long-term fans of Robert E. Howard, and though not all are professional writers, their passion for Howard’s work shows clearly through. Even those who have not been widely published bring their best to these tales, and they can all feel pride in their work. Here’s my take on the pieces.

Introduction by Rusty Burke: Discusses Robert E. Howard Fandom, particularly the group known as REHupa, which almost every contributor to this collection is either a current or past member of.

“A Gathering of Ravens” by Charles Gramlich: My story about a sword slinging female warrior.

“The Rhymester of Ulm” by James Reasoner: A thief robs a bard of his magic pen. Or does he? Reasoner is the biggest name author in the collection.

“The Word” by Rob Roehm: “Carl Macon owned the land, all of it.” A flash fiction western style tale about taking a stand.

“This Too Will Go Its Way” by Barbara Barrett: A fine poem that evokes a strong sense of nostalgia.

“CSI: Kimmeria” by Robert Weinberg: Weinberg is also a widely known name. This one is written as a kind of play. I’m not the most sensitive guy but I thought I detected a satirical and humorous edge.

“Bloody Isle of the Kiyah-rahi” by Christopher Fulbright: Robert Howard wrote many pirate stories and this one is a fine tribute to that genre.

“Son of Song” by Frank Coffman: A tribute to Howard and my favorite poem in the collection.

“Avatar” by Jimmy Cheung: Good sword & sorcery fiction. It had my favorite opening line of any of the tales: “It was a corpse city infested with the living.” I would like to see an expanded version of this at some point.

“Belit’s Refrain” by Barbara Barrett: Belit is my favorite female character from the Howard stories. This was a very nice poem that captured her essence.

“Now With Serpents He Wars” by Patrick R. Burger: A Knights of the Round Table story. I much enjoyed the use of sorcery in this one.

“Best to Let it Lie” by Danny Street: A poem that captures the kind of nihilistic outlook on life that Howard’s poetry often expressed.

“Two Dragons Blazing: A Tale of the Barbarian Kabar of El Hazzar” by Angeline Hawkes: Kabar must find a way into hell to save his beautiful sister.

“The Nights’ Last Battle” by Amy Kerr: A long poem that captures Howard’s voice well when he was writing his more bombastic style of poetry.

“Sailor Tom Sharkey and the Phantom of the Gentlemen Farmer’s Commune” by Mark Finn: A humorous tale that reflects the kind of storytelling that Howard handled so deftly with his humorous boxing stories of Sailor Steve Costigan.

“I Am a Martian Galley Slave!” by David A. Hardy: My favorite story in the collection. The use of language is superb and the characterization is excellent. This one deserves to be nominated for an award.

“A Spirit on the Wind” by Frank Coffman: Another fine tribute to Howard by Coffman.

“Dead River Revenge” by Chris Gruber: This was my second favorite story in the collection. Lots of brutal action and a setting that recalls the Conan story, “Beyond the Black River.” The character of “Billy” is the most Howardian character in the collection without being a pastiche of a Howard character.

“The Moon” by Barbara Barrett: A very short, almost haiku ode to the battle between the sun and moon.

“No Other Gods” by Gary Romeo: Essentially a Conan pastiche, although using a character named Tanan.

“A Meeting in the Bush” by Morgan Holmes: Not so much a story as a sketch of an interesting meeting between two iconic characters in the jungle. I think you’ll be able to figure out the characters pretty easily.

“Blades of Hell” by Don Herron: An appropriately bloodthirsty ending poem.

Afterword by Mark Finn: Talks a bit about putting this project together.

Notes on the Contributors: Short pieces about each of the featured authors. You get to find out how most of them are connected to Howard fandom.

I highly recommend this collection, and it’s for a very good cause.


Paul R. McNamee said...

I have this one, need to read it!

Chris said...

Outstanding. Just ordered my copy!

Charles Gramlich said...

Paul, I think you'll enjoy. You probably know a fair number of these folks.

Chris, my story is also in the Bitter steel antho but all the others should be brand new to you. See what you think of the "I am a Martian Galley slave."

laughingwolf said...

thx charles, will go on my tbr list :)

nephite blood spartan heart said...

I'm gonna have to get this-those are some fantastic titles that tickle the imagination.

Charles Gramlich said...

laughingwolf, tis a good book.

David J., yeah, definitely. I was proud of my colleagues in Howard fandom.

Deka Black said...

And this is the moment when i roar for not having the money. Is howardian stuff. And a anthology (and i love anthologies!)

Tom Doolan said...

yep, bought this one as soon as it was announced. Haven't had a chance to sit down and read any of it. But, I am just happy to have contributed and to own such a beautiful book.

Oscar Case said...

Not my genre, but sounds interesting.

Steve Malley said...

Exciting! :D

Golden Eagle said...

Thank you for the review! :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Deka, maybe the money will come soon! :)

Tom, it is beautiful. Great cover. Mark and Chris did a great job.

Oscar, it's not all fantasy. there is some historical stuff there as well.

Steve Malley, yep!

Golden Eagle, glad to be of service. :)

Dave Hardy said...

Thanks Charles! It was a real pleasure to be included in this book. Mark & Chris did a great job. And I love the Keegans' cover.

Cloudia said...

Nice job!

Warm Aloha from Waikiki;

Comfort Spiral

> < } } ( ° >


< ° ) } } > <

X. Dell said...

'Charles Gramlich' is fifteen letters; 'James Reasoner' is only thirteen letters. Seems to me the former would be the bigger name.

Congratulations on this publication.

Deka Black said...

maybe,. Notlosing the will is important!

Randy Johnson said...

I got this one as well and definitely need to get to it. There's the problem, though, so much I need and want to get to.

sandySTC said...

I have this, too, and am enjoying it here and there. I never seem to read anthologies from start to finish.

I particularly liked your story, “A Gathering of Ravens”.

It's all good stuff.

ivan said...

I echo Oscar:

"Not my genre, but sounds interesting."

I do note however,that so many superheroes stem from an author's immigrant experience.

Hee. Will I one day pen "Conan the Hungarian?"

the walking man said...

Will look for it at B&N

Charles Gramlich said...

Dave Hardy, the cover really captures something for sure. I was proud of how strong the offerings were.

Cloudia, thankee.

X. Dell, you know, I never thought of it that way!

Deka Black, I remember when I was young wanting a lot of books and not having the money. Finally I have some money and now I buy them. It gets there eventually.

Randy Johnson, I know what you mean. I have a huge pile and I just ordered more to be read. Well, better riches than not.

sandy outworldarts spartasoap, thanks. I was pretty happy with the writing in that story. It was the first one I ever wrote with a female hero. I enjoyed it.

ivan, I seem to have many genres, at least for reading. Lots of good stuff all around. Hard times trigger fiction, I think. Thus maybe that's the tie in to the immigrant experience.

Mark, unfortunately, it's probably not carried there. I don't know but they might be able to order it.

Drizel said...

Sounds really awesome:)

Charles Gramlich said...

Drizel, I'm a big Howard geek so it certainly is to me.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The imagination contained in the pages is awe inspiring.

Charles Gramlich said...

Patti, that's very kind!

Erik Donald France said...

Cool beans. I need to get Cross Plains. It's gotta be less than two hours by wheel from where I'm posting this from. I've been to Abilene, and to nearby Fort Phantom Hill.

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, man you should go to CP for sure. It's a great little place

sage said...

Sounds like a great collection and an interesting project... I did misread the title "A Meeting in the Bush" and for a second thought it might be an surreal encounter (would be there any other kind) with that other Texas guy!

Charles Gramlich said...

Sage, Is that like a double nontendre? :)